By BRIAN CUNNIFF
OCEAN CITY — Kira Sides couldn’t find her home uniform jersey and placed a frantic text message to her head coach 20 minutes before the Middle Township High School girls basketball team had to board the bus for its game at the 97.3 ESPN Radio Girls Shootout Sunday afternoon.
Middle coach John Leahy issued Sides, who usually wears No. 2, a replacement jersey with the number 23 on it.
After the game Sides had against Hammonton, Leahy joked that the number change might become permanent.
“Maybe we’ll let her keep this new one for now,” Leahy said with a laugh. “Maybe we’ll tell her parents to keep the other one lost.”
Sides made 10 of 18 shots from the floor and all seven of her free-throw attempts en route to a game-high 28 points as Middle posted a 58-50 victory.
Sides scored all those points despite missing much of the second quarter after picking up her third foul.
“All kidding aside, we’re really proud of Kira,” Leahy said. “She picked up kind of a silly foul for her third, but then she showed a lot of maturity going out in the second half and not fouling again. And obviously she shot it really, really well.
“We ask her to do so much for us but she’s capable of that. She had a really good game.”
Middle (12-4) raced out to a 19-9 lead after one quarter and was ahead by 12 points at one stage early in the second. But Hammonton made a run after Sides went to the bench, the Blue Devils (8-7) pulling to within three at the half. But Middle quickly went up by nine at the start of the third quarter and Hammonton got no closer than six points the rest of the way.
“This was a good win against a pretty good team,” Leahy said. “It was a physical game and I thought our kids handled that part of it OK. For the most part our rebounding was strong and offensively we were really good. For us to score almost 60 points, that’s really good for us.”
Kate Herlihy added 17 points and four steals and Aubrey Hunter chipped in eight points and nine rebounds for Middle.